Then, of course, there are the serious fantasizers. Dennis Lyons, 32, is a bartender in Hayward, Calif. In his quest to become a baseball play-by-play announcer, he has attended the Columbia School of Broadcasting, San Francisco branch. He has studied with Chick Hearn, voice of the Lakers, and Al Conin, a broadcaster for the California Angels, at the Sportscaster Camps of America in Los Angeles. And he has been to Fantasy Play-by-Play half a dozen times to make demonstration tapes to send off to various potential employers.
"It's great," Lyons says. "Doing a game off the TV, you never get the full range of where the ball's going, how far it's going. By the time the ball leaves the bat and they switch to where the ball's going, there's a loss there. At the park, you hear the surroundings. It's the best thing for me."
At the park today the A's are hosting the Minnesota Twins, and in the Fantasy box, Don Loessberg, 22, and Scott Alexander, 35, both of Santa Rosa, Calif., are waiting for their half inning. In their seats they warm up by calling the action. "The rock, the deal, strike'." shouts Loessberg, while Alexander supplies the color.
Loessberg, an avid A's fan and a student disc jockey at Sonoma State in Rohnert Park, Calif., is on a mission here. "Play-by-play is what I really, really love," he says. "Even when I play, I'm announcing to myself."
In the booth Loessberg is smooth: "There's a ball hit to Gagne, the throw to first—Henderson's motoring—he's out, two down." Alexander forgets his color role, butting in on Loessberg's play-by-play. And Loessberg is so intent on the game that he ignores some of Alexander's comments.
No matter. At inning's end, the guys are delirious. "Thank you, Bud Light!" shouts Loessberg. "Hi, Mom," says Alexander.
When Loessberg plays back his tape, he'll hear a mix of slick and slop. He won't be surprised.
"It's easy to sit home in front of the TV with a beer and announce the game," says Loessberg. "But here there's a lot of stuff going on. You have to interact with another announcer. And you can't call the play too quickly or be too harsh on a player. You have to understand that it's a tough job to hit a baseball."
"What they find out," says Steve Greenberg, the Pirates' vice-president of sales and marketing, "is that broadcasting is not as easy as it seems. Those half innings take a long time; there's a lot of dead airtime, and it's not as easy to fill as people think it is. You see people in the Fantasy booth up there staring at each other."
In the seats near the A's Fantasy booth, Don Willis sits with his family. Willis, 38, is the athletic director of the Log Cabin Ranch, a residence for delinquent adolescent boys in La Honda, Calif. He has just completed his broadcasting stint, and now he's playing his half inning back on a portable cassette machine, chortling over his bons mots. "I'm gonna cherish this!" he says.